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The NSW Rising Stars series continued at Penrith last night with the Riverina's Todd Prest closing in on leader Chris Geary following a victory with the Ian Wilson trained Charli Springfield. The opening event was taken out by the Blake Fitzpatrick trained Iam Ready for Maitland's Grace Grant which has elevated her to third position on the leader board. The current points tally is as follows; Chris Geary 71 Todd Prest 65 Grace Grant 53 Jack Trainor 47 Kristy Sheehy (WA) 47 Mitch Turnbull 47 Kasey Hocking 41 Nathan Xuereb 37 Max Hughes 36 Liam Armstrong 18 Mitch Turnbull - Western Dist - 4 The next three heats will be held tomorrow at Bathurst Harness Racing Club race 1 - 5:14pm, race 3 - 6:06pm & race 5 - 7:10pm The fourth round of heats will be conducted at Newcastle tomorrow night before concluding with a final heat at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Sunday. Dale Walker | Manager - Marketing | Harness Racing New South Wales  

Promising horseman David White has had a busy week. He left for Victoria on Monday, raced on Tuesday and Wednesday before returning to Sydney to put the final touches on his four year old pacer Hollywood Sign before Saturday night's semi final of the Breeders Challenge at Tabcorp Park Menangle. "I work for Blake Fitzpatrick and he has had some horses campaigning in Victoria and I have been looking after them but I am hoping for a good result in the semi finals of the Breeders Challenge back in Sydney on Saturday night that's for sure," White said. "I think he has drawn the weaker semi final which will give him the best chance of progressing through to the final, he has got good gate speed and I have a couple of options in the race." White races the horse in partnership with his uncle Trevor and friend Matthew Peden. "Trevor did a great job with him in the Riverina and sent him up to me in great condition and he hasn't been too far away recently at Menangle. Actually Matt (Peden) said to me the other day his combined beaten margin since moving up here has been ten metres combined." "To be honest he probably lacks that real high speed quarter, he doesn't possess the 26 second quarter and that is probably the difference between him and some of the other horses in the series but I'm hoping he can scrape in." Hollywood Sign is the only horse that White is currently training and will compete in race four on Saturday night. "Blake lets me work him in with his team and that is a great help, I have really enjoyed my 18 months with Blake, he has taught me so much and it is great to be working with the calibre of horses he has in his stable." "When I moved up from Wagga it was something different for me being away from home but I really enjoy it and I still get to go home occasionally which is good." Harness Racing New South Wales

Sound the alarm because the Shark has well and truly arrived. Punters had already been warned of course – the wraps on the David Aiken-trained horse were enormous before last night’s University Foods 4YO and 5YO Championship, following a powerful win first up when he donkey licked his rivals earlier this month. Heavily backed since fixed odds opened midweek, Lennytheshark started $2.10 but had been odds-on. The punters nailed it. From the pole draw, Lennytheshark cruised to the lead almost unchallenged for driver Chris Alford early and nothing wanted to take him on until the bell. Emma Stewart star Restrepo, which was first up from a spell, launched his claim as the bell sounded and improved to the breeze. Down the back, Dean Braun’s rising star Chilli Palmer started his move with an audacious burst as Lennytheshark quickened up front. Turning for home though and the Shark attacked, Lenny skipping clear and powering further away late to eventually score by a substantial 10.3m. Braun trained the second, third and fourth horses over the line – Inky Cullen, Chilli Palmer and Magical Telf – while Restrepo dropped out to finish seventh. The mile rate was 1:56.5. Meanwhile, two young trotters became Group 1 winners via the finals of the Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic series. In the fillies’ final it was Blake Fitzpatrick trained and driven Royal Treat too strong. The Majestic Son filly utilized the sprint lane in the home straight to defeat Meadow Valley Road, with Neville Welsh-trained Est Est Est third. Illawong Armstrong prevailed in the colts and geldings’ final for trainer-driver Jodi Quinlan, defeating Black Valley and Bring The Action. Champion reinsman Chris Alford took driving honours for the night with a winning treble, while Rebecca Bartley’s amazing run in the Young Drivers Challenge continued, winning the third race of the series after collecting the first two at Shepparton on Thursday night. Last night Bartley steered Smiling Spirit home at cricket score odds of $54.30. By Cody Winnell (Harness Racing Australia)

A late decision by Appin (NSW) harness racing trainer Nicole Molander to contest the $30,505 (Group 2) Bruce Skeggs Memorial Cranbourne Trotters Cup for TM0 or better class over 2555 metres at Cranbourne on Saturday after nominations were extended, paid dividends when  prolific winning six year old Dr Ronerail/Flipside gelding Keystone Del scored a fighting victory in the feature event on the program. With regular reinsman Blake Fitzpatrick again holding the reins, Keystone Del who two stars back was successful in the rich Great Southern Star Final at Tabcorp Park Melton in March, began swiftly from gate five, however Chris Alford aboard Spidergirl inside him had similar thoughts and the pair went head and head as the mobile barrier pulled away, with Keystone Del winning out. Allowed to dawdle at the head of affairs with the field racing in Indian file, Keystone Del went through the first two quarters of the last mile in 33.8 and 33 seconds, with Vics Cheval one of three David Aiken trained runners moving from last to creep forward in the open at the bell. In a last half mile of 29.9 and 28.6, Keystone Del had to pull out all stops to defy a strong challenge by Spidergirl along the sprint lane to gain the day by a nose in a pedestrian mile rate of 2-06.2, with Vics Cheval 4.8 metres away in third place. Even through the rate was nothing special, the race had the crowd on their toes cheering all the way up the running. It was Keystone Del’s 17th victory in 34 outings. The trotters took pride of place at the meeting, with brilliant Bacardi Lindy/All Finesse filly Claudys Princess taking the $10,275 Aldebaran Park Starlet for Three Year Olds over 1609 metres and in doing so, brought up her eighth victory from eleven outings. Driven by Gavin Lang for Kyabram trainer Mick Blackmore, Claudys Princess starting solo on the second line was allowed to amble at the rear of the field, before moving forward three wide racing for the bell to park in the open for the final circuit. Cruising to the front on straightening, Claudys Princess registered a 5.6 metre victory in a rate of 2-01 over Im Havinaball which led and  Indie Pepperell (one/one last lap) which came in third 8.7 metres in arrears of the pair. Bred by veteran Goulburn Valley trotting devotee Gus Underwood, Claudys Fancy is raced by the Catchya Racing Group of which Gus is a member. Honest eight year old Conch Deville/Springfield Wilma mare Rockin Wilma chalked up her 10th victory and first since February, when successful in The Red Shed Trotters Handicap for T1 or better class over 2575 metres. Trained and driven by Sunbury’s Justin Livingtstone, Rockin Wilma starting from 20 metres was given the run of the race trailing the front runner Mosquito Spur after the heavily supported pole line favourite Seascape Boy galloped shortly after the start when contesting the lead. Taken away from the markers approaching the home turn, Rockin Wilma proved far too strong over the concluding stages to score by an easy 14.1 metres in advance of Seascape Boy which made up plenty of ground, with Mosquito Spur holding down third albeit 25.5 metres from the winner. Len Baker Harness Racing Victoria

The Shannon Price stable will start two horses in Thursday's $50,000 Renshaw Cup at Penrith Paceway. American Legend and Terror Time have both performed well in their home state of Queensland and stable representative Scott Miller is expecting a big performance this week. "Both of the horses have been racing really well in Queensland and under the grading system up here a horse like Terror Time will have to start competing against the free-for-allers so we have taken the option to get them both to Sydney where they are better assessed and the Renshaw Cup is a great starting point," Miller said. "We are unsure how long we will stay at this stage, it all depends on how Chevals Clivesdale goes in the heat of the Carousel on Thursday night, if he happened to win his way through to the feature on Len Smith Mile day then we would stay for the fortnight." Terror Time has won more than $250,000 in his career and has already won 20 races. "He has won four of his last five starts and his last win saw him break 29 seconds for his final three quarters, he is a really tough horse and Brad Cowen his regular driver will stick with him." "American Legend on the other hand is a totally different type of horse, he is a speed horse that has to be saved up for the final shot but when driven like that he can be very effective, Blake Fitzpatrick will take the drive on him for us." Chevals Clivesdale has been in great form in Queensland too and has earned a trip south. "The Rising Stars series has seen horses moving through the grades race for good prize money but unfortunately there wasn't anything coming up for Chevals Clivesdale so we thought the Carousel looked a good series for him." "He has got really good speed but he is very versatile as well, he has won four of his last six and his last win he rated 1:57.6 for the 2138 metres." By Greg Hayes - SKY Racing Harness Racing New South Wales |  

Respected horseman Blake Fitzpatrick will have a three pronged attack in Saturday night's heats of the Australian Pacing Gold for the two year old fillies at Tabcorp Park Menangle.  Fitzpatrick has a strong team of juveniles this season and unbeaten filly Our Awesome Girl could be one of the better ones in the stable. "Our Awesome Girl is a very promising filly that's for sure, and in the space of six weeks she has just continued to improve," Fitzpatrick said. "She's quite a big filly and I must admit I had some concerns earlier in the season but she has put it altogether of late and once the penny started to drop the APG became an obvious target." Our Awesome Girl is raced by Fitzpatrick's mother and Pam Usher. "They are going to have a bit of fun with her this season, she won her first race at Newcastle by four or five metres and it was another thirty metres back to third." In the second of the heats, Fitzpatrick will start Star Jasmine and Candy Crush. "Gavin (Fitzpatrick, brother) will drive Star Jasmine, she had her first start at Bankstown and I thought her run was very good." "She was passed in at the APG sales and was retained by her breeder Ron Littler." Candy Crush was only a cheap purchase and looked set to qualify for the Bathurst Gold Tiara last start before veering in at a crucial stage in the straight. "She had never been hit with the whip before and ducked in but she requalified at Penrith on Tuesday and I think she is going to be a filly of the future." by Greg Hayes - SKY Racing (Courtesy of Harness Racing AU)

It was a stunning harness racing final of the Pryde’s EasiFeed Great Southern Star and Keystone Del outsprinted his more highly fancied contemporary to claim the $300,000 final. Starting from barrier one, race favourite Stent held up from the inside, working to hold out the early challengers. In a surprise, Keystone Del was shuffled back early as Cold Sister and eventually Blitzthemcalder worked around to find the breeze. But when the pressure went on it was Stent turning for home in front with an ominous figuring looming up out wide in Keystone Del. The ex-kiwi son of Dr Ronerail had to fight hard for it but struck the lead halfway up the lane and continued to grind him to take the race in 1:56.5. Stent held second from My High Expectations and Zedalite who got home into fourth. With the quinella showing form counts for everything after winning their heats, the second ever Pryde’s EasiFeed Great Southern Star will go down in history as another war of attrition. Keystone Del is trained by former kiwi Nicole Molander and was driven by usual driver Blake Fitzpatrick. Keystone Del has had an incredible six weeks taking the Glenferrie Farm Challenge and the heat and final of Saturday night’s race. by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria

Kiwi raider Stent stamped himself as the nominal harness racing Pryde’s EasiFeed Great Southern Star favourite with a comfortable win in the first elimination heat. Beginning swiftly from barrier one, he held the early challenge of Tender Don at bay before trotting strongly throughout to hold Aleppo Midas who sat parked for the last lap. The quinella cleared out from Cold Sister who ran home into third to secure her place in the final while I See Icy Earl rattled home into fourth after having a soft run. In an almost track-record time, Stent rated 1:56.0 for the mile having completed quarters of 29.1secs, 30.6secs, 28.9secs and 27.6secs. With the win comes the added bonus of first choice of barriers for the final, as long as the second heat winner doesn’t equal or break the time recorded by Stent. Keystone Del charges into final The second of the Pryde’s EasiFeed Great Southern Star heats went to Keystone Del in what was a slower time than Stent but no less impressive. From the one by one position, Blake Fitzpatrick simply sat and waited as Flying Isa lead from the pole with My High Expectations parked outside him. The pair turned it on off the back and when the gaps came for Keystone Del he loomed up and charged to the front halfway down the straight, racing to victory in a time of 1:56.6. My High Expectations battled on for second while Zedalite was produced along the sprint lane to snag a certain position in the final. The barrier draw for the final will be conducted at around 8pm on track. by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria

With Pryde’s EasiFeed Great Southern Star night looming, nominations for the harness racing night have been building quickly. And for trainers and owners involved in the Drivers Invitational FFA, it’s important to note that drivers will be randomly allocated to horses starting in the event. Most notably North America’s leading reinsman Corey Callahan will feature in the Drivers Invitational with fellow internationals Anthony Butt, Dexter Dunn and Colin De Fillipi. The Australian’s chosen to be allocated drives include Greg Sugars, Chris Alford, Gavin Lang, Kerryn Manning, Luke McCarthy and Blake Fitzpatrick. An overseas contingent of Chantal Sutherland (Canada), Yoann Lagarde (France) and Dexter Dunn (New Zealand) have been invited to compete in the Invitation Monte. While the Australian team will be selected from Haley Toulmin, Daryl Douglas, Maree Campbell, Paul Hamblin, Anne-Maree Conroy and Mary Crosby, depending upon availability.                                                                                                

Harness Racing Victoria commentator Craig Rail will join the list of invited broadcasters to call the “all-trotters” Anzac Day meeting at Coolamon and he is delighted to have the opportunity. In the short but interesting history of the feature meeting Mark McNamara, Jim Jacques and Ray Fewings have called the program and Rail jumped at the chance to join the list. “It was an absolute privilege to be asked to call the day and I am really going to enjoy making the trip up from Victoria to call at Coolamon,” he said. “I have a soft spot for the trotters, I actually have pictures of Lyell Creek and Maori’s Idol hanging in my lounge room at home, so to be part of an afternoon for just the trotters, is something I’m really looking forward to.” The Coolamon track has undergone significant work in recent weeks including the surface and the shape and cambers of the home turn and the turn leaving the front straight.  Harness Racing NSW has received positive and complimentary feedback in relation to the track improvements following recent trials. Prominent NSW trainer Blake Fitzpatrick was successful at the all trotters day meeting in 2013 and will be heading south with a strong team once again. “I’ve had good times at Coolamon and with the improvement to the track I’m expecting some fierce competition this year,” he said. Once again the feature will be the running of the $25,000 Group 3 La Coocaracha for open class mares. Harness Racing New South Wales

It is already a race famous for attracting the best trotters in Australasia, the Group One Glenferrie Farm Challenge. Yet this $200,000 feature will now also be known as Nicole Molander's too after the former Kiwi, now based at Appin, near Campbelltown, made it back-to-back wins with Keystone Del when the six-year-old gelding scored an exciting win at Tabcorp Park Menangle today. In a race where none of the leaders were given much peace, Keystone Del came from midfield, rating a stunning 1:53.9 for the mile to knock four-tenths of a second off the Australian trotters' record. And while it was technically a victory for Australia in the Australia v New Zealand challenge, the result might easily had been different had Kiwi reinsman Colin De Filippi driving Stent not been stuck three back on the pegs and desperately searching for an opening to give chase to the leaders. Turning for home De Filippi had to turn five-year-old Stent sideways to find some open ground. And when Stent finally saw daylight, with about 80-metres left to travel, he whooshed down the outside to fail by just over a metre in finishing second with another Aussie Elegant Image (Kate Gath) back in third. Despite being defending champion in this race, Molander's star trotter actually started a $17 shot, but with champion reinsman Blake Fitzpatrick in the bike, the result was never in doubt. Harness Racing NSW  

Jason Lees could not believe his luck when he won a share in a pacer called Only One Slim about twelve months ago. Lees and good friend David Shacallis had bought one ticket each in the raffle to win a share in the horse and had agreed to go 'halves' should they be lucky enough to be drawn out. "I was there at the draw and it was actually Dave's ticket that got drawn out but we have been having an absolute ball over the past twelve months, it has been fantastic," Lees said. "David and I couldn't get to the races last week at Penrith and wouldn't you know he got up and won and it is only the second time since I've had him that I have missed him run." Lees had never owned a pacer before and believes it has been a great introduction into the sport. "I have always been a punter but have never had one before and the night it won for the first time for us was like Christmas, I've never been so excited." "I'd love to see him win a race at Menangle, that would be an absolute dream. He actually won a race there before we got him, if he could do that it would be very special for me." Trainer Blake Fitzpatrick has been very approachable for the first time owner and has made the experience all the more enjoyable. "My daughter is 9 years old and she lives in Queensland but when she comes down to spend some time with me I get onto the phone and ring Blake and he is always quick to invite us out there to his stable and makes us feel welcome when we arrive." "When he won I remember giving her a ring and she was just as excited as I was, she loves going out to the stables and giving the horse a pat." By Greg Hayes Harness Racing New South Wales  

VINCENNES, France - If Blake Fitzpatrick ever gave up training horses he'd be a shoe-in for a diplomatic posting. His dream drive at Vincennes on Anders Lindqvist's Visconti du Home turned into every driver's nightmare, the horse was struggling for breath after 2 furlongs and had tailed off long before the field had entered the straight for the first time. Unfortunately Blake still had a lap to go in the 2850m race - and although he did beat two home, they had already been disqualified for breaking. But while the horse was disappointing, the track had the New South Wales horseman effusive in his praise. "The track was like nothing I've ever driven on. I was told it was good but it was unbelievable. Very, very unique. Like nothing we have in Australia," said a smiling Fitzpatrick afterwards. "It was undulating. It has three straights not two. Beautiful turns and an unbelievable surface as well." And while he was worried enough about the starts to watch videos beforehand, not the least that the instructions were in French - and of the only two French words he was familiar with, the second was fries - he handled it with ease. No language barrier to this starting gate - indeed it was yet another facet of French trotting that got the thumbs up. "I quite liked their starts too," he said. "There is plenty of merit in them. There is no standing, horses are on the go all the time. Very very few of the horses gallop away here." But it was the unique Vincennes track with all its idiosyncrasies that will remain long in the memory. Not the least the famous hill in the back straight. "You sort of come off the bend and head into the back straight and you start climbing straight away. It's quite a climb." And he observed the horses had started to make their move before they even attacked the hill. And the tempo of the race, also was an eye opener. "They don't slacken off here." So the Aussie in Paris put down a disappointing result to experience - and a wonderful one at that. "We'll be back. But with a bit more ammo hopefully." by David Sanders for  

VINCENNES, France - The international flavour of Prix d'Amerique week just got a little down under ingredient with top Australian trainer and driver Blake Fitzpatrick picking up a catch drive at Vincennes tomorrow. Group one winning trainer Fitzpatrick will be aboard Visconti du Home who is trained by France based Swede Anders Lindqvist in the Prix de Mons, a race for 5YOs for 22000 euros over 2850m and race 5 on the programme at the Temple du Trot. For Fitzpatrick, the drive is the highlight of a whistle stop fact finding tour of France taking in some of the top training and breeding estabishments and a week of some of the word's best trotting action in the company of fellow trainer and driver Ross Graham, and trotting owner and stable client Pat Driscoll. Although Fitzpatrick is a group one winning trainer and driver in his native Australia, he admitted the thought of driving in the Temple du Trot was a daunting one. "It's a different style of racing and driving, especially the starts. They are completely different to what we are used to. It's going to be difficult that is for sure,' Fitzpatrick said. "So I'm quite anxious but It'll be a great experience, just to say I've driven at VIncennes It has a lot of history and a very famous track. I can't wait." Fitzpatrick has visited some of the very best training and breeding establishments in Normandy over the past few days and has been observing first hand how superstar trotters such as Ready Cash, The Best Madrik and Un Mec d'Heripre are put through their paces. "I've been very lucky we have met racing royalty over here," says Fitzpatrick. "On the first day we spoke with Thierry Duvalsdestin and then Mr Jean-Etienne Dubois today and we saw Fabrice Solouy work his horses yesterday. We really learnt a lot, they have been very welcoming. "There are probably no one better to get advice from and that gives me a head start." And the New South Wales horseman was also impressed by Vincennes when he visited it last Saturday to view the Prix de Cornulier. "The track has a lot of history around it and is quite unique. Firstly the facilities are first rate. As far as the track goes it is quite unique in that it is undulating, beautiful 2000m track with the starting shuts and the smaller track on the inside, the surface is the most appealing part of the track for me - it is the perfect track for horses. "It will be a once in a lifetime, something you will never forget." So how is he going to approach his first time at the Hippodrome de Paris. "It is all new to me. I will probably follow out one of the better drivers. I'm probably surrounded by better drivers so it wouldn't matter who I followed. "It's quite daunting, surrounded by champions." by David Sanders for  

The Newcastle Harness Racing Club is very proud that this Friday night will see the 56th running of the Newcastle Cup. This makes it the longest running Cup race in New South Wales and one of the longest in Australia. The first Cup was run in 1954 and was won by Ellicot which was driven by Les keys. The Cup was not run from 1975 to 1978. Joe Ilsley drove Golden Cycle to win the 1988 Cup which was the last one run at the Broadmeadow showground which had been the home of harness racing for some 40 years. Thorate won the 1989 Cup for Brian Hancock with the race being run at Cessnock that year while the new track was being built at the International Sports Centre. Duchess Dulcinea and Graeme Watts had the honour of winning the first Newcastle Cup run at the new track in 1990. From 1954 to 1988 the Cup was run as a standing start event. It was run as a mobile from 1990 to 93 then reverted to a stand in 1994. Ultra Jet for David Aiken won the 1994 Cup off a 20 metre handicap in a world record time of 3.06.4 for the 2550 metre trip with a mile rate of 1.57.6. Many great drivers and horses have won or contested the Newcastle Cup including Merv Adams, Kevin Newman, Bill Hansell, Brian Hancock, Howard James, Denis Wilson, David Aiken, Norm Baker, Charlie McDeed, Joe Ilsley, Michael Ilsley, John Binskin, Darrell Graham, Graeme Watts and Blake Fitzpatrick. The Hunter Valley is well represented by such horseman as Herb Morgan, Fred Barnes, Ted Tessier, Jack Andrews, Norm Williams, Clive Johnson, Jim Robb, Bill Reynolds, Doug Clark, Jim McManus, Jason Proctor, Neville Greenwood and Neil Thompson. Some of the stand out horses to contest the Newcastle Cup include Match Point, Craig Tom, Road Hog, Bold Judy, Penny Jack, Flash Adios, Michael Frost, Nigra Sum, Thorate, Generator, Tallowood Pursuit, Rollon Big Red, Nidya {who won the 50th Cup},Lady Lexus, Mach Wiper and last year's winner Feels Like magic. The Newcastle Cup was first run in 1954 and despite some changes to the format the race still holds its place as a time honoured event in the sport. The Group 3 $30,000 Morpeth Limousines Newcastle Cup will jump at 9.10 on Friday night. Visit our web site for a full list of Cup placegetters at Nancy O'Grady | Executive Assistant | Harness Racing New South Wales |    

Young reinsman Chris Geary drove the first winner in his short career when Western Gailes won at Bankstown on Saturday night. Trained by Geary's father John, Western Gailes settled in the one-one before racing past the leader Junior Johnson in the straight to record a comfortable victory. "I have only had my licence just over a week and it was nice to get a winner early on and to drive it for my dad was pretty special too," Geary said. "Western Gailes got a good trip, he's not known for his speed, he can be a bit lazy and normally takes some time to wind up but he showed a nice turn of speed when I pulled him into the clear and it was quite a thrill." Geary works for Belinda and Luke McCarthy at Cobbitty and enjoys being around horses constantly. "Luke and Belinda are great, there is a great bunch of people out there at the stables and it makes going to work every day very easy." "I used to help out at the stables whenever I got the chance, weekends and school holidays and times like that but an opportunity came to go full time as I was coming towards the end of Year 10 and I jumped at the chance." As a former competitor in mini and maxi trotting in New South Wales, Geary has had a very good grounding in the sport. "I drove a very good pony called Energizer, he was state champion five times and I also got the chance to compete in the maxi trots as well when it first started." "I've watched a number of top drivers closely, guys like Luke McCarthy, Mat Rue, Blake Fitzpatrick and Robbie Morris, they are all very successful and my aim is to be a top driver too, maybe one day I might branch out into training but at the moment I'm very happy to concentrate on driving." Nancy O'Grady | Executive Assistant | Harness Racing New South Wales |          

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